A little basketball strategy to argue over..

.5 seconds on the clock. Mavs up 81 to 80. Darrell Armstrong at the foul line to shoot 2. He makes the first.

Does he try to make the 2nd free thro or intentionally miss it ?

Thank goodness Im not the coach. I would have missed the 2nd shot, hoping the scramble for the rebound eats up the remaining half a second.

After the game, Avery Johnson explained why he wanted DA to make the 2nd free throw

If you miss and it’s a simple rebound, the clock doesn’t start till its touched.They would have told the refs they wanted an immediate time out on the rebound before the shot. So little time comes off the clock.

So they would probably have .4 left on the clock (If its lower, the refs probably reset it to .5).With a 20sec timeout remaining, they would have taken it and gotten the ball past half court.

If he makes the 2nd free throw, they take the same 20 sec timeout, and get the ball past half court

68 thoughts on “A little basketball strategy to argue over..

  1. Congratulations! Nice blog! Greetings from Azores Islands.

    http://sociedadeanonimasgps.blogspot.com/

    Comment by Ninocas -

  2. Great research Ben Ambers! I still take the odds that Avery took though. Denver hadn’t made a three-pointer all night and then they’re going to try and hit one for a tie with 0.5 seconds left on the clock? Assuming they DO get the time-out they need, would you rather take your chances with them making a 3-pointer in .5 or a tip-in with 0.2?

    How about DeSagana Diop’s game? 16 boards, 6 blocks and 2 steals! What a game!

    Comment by Rob -

  3. To arthur above,

    The Mavs were only up by 1 when Diop block Carmello’s shot. DA’s free throws followed the block.

    Comment by mary -

  4. Mr Cuban,

    With all do respect, make the shot, and to take it a step further, play off of them on the other end. 3 is the magic number that garauntees you aren’t going to lose without a foul. Being up 3 in basketball with a posession left is like being up 8 in football… It’s going to take something amazing just for your opponent to keep the game alive, worst comes to worst, you go to over-time with the better team, and you have to like those odds.

    M. C. Ray
    P.S. Good work with DeSagana, from a Cavs fan.
    P.P.S. I’d take Terry over Nash any day, as there are two ends to the court

    Comment by TheoEpsteinish -

  5. Oh jeff and you disagree with the 2-1 tactic at the end of quarters too?

    ofcourse an intentional miss does not guarentee anything, we are weighing the risks and benefits here.

    To adamantly state that the only guarentee is the loss of that point is in itself correct, but there is more to it than that, you surely must understand.

    Try using the sasme argument to persuade Kasparov that he should not sacrifice a pawn to have a strategically better chance of winning a match.

    Comment by Peter -

  6. Make the shot. Put pressure on the one inbounding the ball. Once ball is passed everybody to the ball carrier he has no time to pass, everbody hands up NO FOUL!!

    Comment by Ken Mick -

  7. To the guy that said, “it worked, so it was the right call.” Just cause something works once doesn’t mean it will always work, nor does it mean it is the best decision.

    To the guy that said, “it’s harder than you think to intentionally miss the ball off the rim”. It’s incredibly easy.

    I like the idea of the intentional miss. I think the chances of a foul being called are very very slim. I can’t even remember really seeing an over-the-back foul called. Plus, it’s much much much easier to “TIP” the ball than grab it an pull it down. All one of the Mavs gotta do is get a finger on the ball to make it carem off just a tiny bit, and there goes your .5 seconds.

    Comment by Henry Kuo -

  8. I miss the shot, but not just a regular miss. Brick that basketball hard off the rim so it’s not rebounded easily. Wind up and throw it like a football at the rim.

    Comment by plastic surgery satire -

  9. I say never intentionally miss a free throw if you have the lead. It’s a desperate tactic which only guarantees one thing: you don’t get the point.

    Comment by Jeff Peeler -

  10. Here are a couple of this year’s actual NBA rules.

    I got them from: http://aol.nba.com/analysis/rules_index.html?nav=ArticleList

    “On a free throw that is unsuccessful and the ball continues in play, the game clock shall be started when the missed free throw is legally touched by any player.”

    “NO LESS than :00.3 must expire on the game clock when a player secures pos-session of an unsuccessful free throw attempt and immediately requests a timeout.
    If LESS than :00.3 expires in such a circumstance, the time on the game clock shall be reduced by at least :00.3. Therefore, if :00.3 OR LESS remain on the game clock when the above situation exists, and a player requests a timeout upon securing pos-session of the ball, the period is over.”

    “A player’s request for a 20-second timeout shall be granted only when the ball is dead or in control of the team making the request. A request at any other time shall be ignored.”

    “NO LESS THAN :00.3 must expire on the game clock when a player secures possession of an inbounds pass and then attempts a field goal. If less than :00.3 expires in such a situation, the timer will be instructed to deduct AT LEAST :00.3 from the game clock. If less than :00.3 remain on the game clock when this situation occurs, the period is over, and the field goal attempt will be disallowed immediately whether successful or unsuccessful.”

    Therefore, if Avery Johnson has DA miss the shot, the BEST case scenario for the opponent is 0.2 seconds left with the ball out of bounds at half court. That only leaves enough time for a tip in. If the refs blow the timing call, Avery Johnson has an air tight arguement when he references the official rules (assuming he remembered the rule).

    I agree w/ the educated posts by Chris Woods (comment #8) and Mark Cuban. Avery Johnson should have had DA try to miss the free throw. Of course, he has to make sure it hits the rim though.

    Comment by Ben Ambers -

  11. you can’t get too clever with strategy. shooting the miss means you are not playing to win–rather you are playing not to lose–avery is really teaching this team some things about winning–you can see it in the way they walk and the way they go about each game–i don’t know that i enjoy watching this team as much as i did the teams of ’02 and ’03–but they do play with an intensity that those past teams never had.

    Comment by Seth -

  12. When there are more than .3 seconds left on the clock, you must shoot to make it. Any other strategy in this situation is asking to be shot in the foot.

    Comment by Nik Papic -

  13. Marc Dencker – the ball has to at least hit the rim.

    Comment by Matt -

  14. Marc Dencker – the ball has to at least hit the rim.

    Comment by Matt -

  15. You are the biggest loser I have ever seen on this blog. Mark Cuban should kick you off. And Mike Ditka is God.

    Comment by Matt Hates StockMaverick -

  16. Why not trow the second one hard against the backboard so you dramatically increase the chance that you get the rebound. Afterall you team mates know what you’re doing. If you get the ball all your oponent can do is foul you again. This time you have enough foul shots to make it a two position play (meaning they need to foul you again) so you have basically won the game (assuming you make your foul shots)

    Comment by Marc Dencker -

  17. I look at the worst case scenario on each to come to my decision.

    If you make the 2nd free throw, the worst that can happen (so long as the Mavs don’t foul) is the Nuggets tie the game with a wild 3-point attempt. If you miss the 2nd free throw on purpose, you risk them making some sportscenter higlight out of you and you lose the game. I say go get the point on the board, you have to play the same defense regardless.

    Comment by The Chisum -

  18. When did they change the rule about being able to inbound the ball past half with a 20 second timeout? I must have missed that rule change. Bad rule change, makes it easier for the coach to manage his timeouts.

    So if they had no timeouts left would you still make the shot or would you miss it? I say miss. Lessens the chance of a miracle shot at the end.

    Will my Raps win a game this year?

    Comment by Derm -

  19. I agree with Johnson’s strategy. If Armstrong makes both, you’re up three.

    But, if he misses and somehow the opponent gets a rebound and draws a foul, it’s much easier for them to hit two free throws than a rushed three-pointer to force OT.

    Comment by Andrew -

  20. I was watching the game and I have to say, I was happy he made the free throw. I think the real test of strategy is if it works… and it did!

    Shoot to make it, and prepare in case of a miss.

    Comment by Mike C -

  21. i like the guy who reccomended the KLF… great song.

    Blur – Song 2 would work well, i’d go for Underworld – Pearl’s Girl though personally.

    marc you may remember it from the chase scene in the saint w/ val kilmer.

    p.s. shoot the free throw.

    Comment by danny moore (new orleans evacuee in nyc) -

  22. Depends on the shooter. With Armstrong on the line, the miss strategy makes sense. If one of your bigs is on the line, you can’t ask them to aim for the miss, 25% of the time they will hit nothing then a two after the time out beats you…

    Comment by KD -

  23. Henrick has it right… if he makes both shots, the Mavs are up by three. Let them take the ball out at half court and let me do whatever the hell they want to do with the ball in the remaining .5 second – just don’t foul them. The worst that can happen is they make a three pointer and you go into overtime, but those chances aren’t great. Why miss and give them the chance to make a three and beat you?

    Comment by Wool -

  24. I believe there are 2 reasons to make the freethrow. The first is the potential for a foul against the shooting team. The other is the potential for an airball. Missing a freethrow but hitting some rim is harder than it seems.

    Comment by Matt -

  25. I just think it’s amazing how everyone comments without reading the post or the other comments first.

    If he makes both, they are up by 3!

    Comment by Henrik -

  26. I think it is amazing how all of these people on the site continue to second-guess coaches etc… I know it is normal to do so, but do you guys really believe that in professional sports there are not stats that relate to this EXACT scenario. Come on guys, to coach in the NBA you have to be aware of these and I’m sure the coach was in this situation.

    Comment by Aaron Bernstine -

  27. Didn’t the league mandate when they went to the tenths clock that .4 was the minimum amount of time a player could receive an inbound pass and turn and shoot? I may be wrong about this, but I thought that became the unwritten standard… maybe it was college. Either way, there is a reason Avery is coaching the team and you are guesting on Cavuto.

    PS. Don’t forget… “Last Train To Transcentral” by the KLF. That’s your new arena tune… trust me.

    Comment by David J. Gray -

  28. Stock,
    “Visualize” yourself getting a life.

    Comment by matt -

  29. I’d like to give my two cents by comparing this to a very similar situation that is often posed in football. It actually happend just last monday at the Dallas v. Eagles game. Say you’re down 7-14. You have the ball with 4 minutes left. You score a touchdown. Plenty of time for the other team to get into good field position and get a field goal. So here’s the question, after you have scored the touchdown, do you kick for 1 point and tie it up, or do you go for 2 and chance that you lose and even if you get the 1 point, the other team might kick the field goal and win anyways.

    What do you do? The Cowboys went for two and held back the Eagles to attempt a game losing 60 yard attempt for a field goal.

    PS. Cuban – Did you get the email from Park Cities Pres Church about the guy from Africa wanting to go to a game?

    Comment by Taylor -

  30. Remember Derek Fisher last year? If you look at it from a game theory perspective, ignoring odds and the like, if DA hits the FT then the worst case scenario is that the other team hits a 3 and you go into OT. The worst case if he misses and the other team hits a 3 is that you lose. The best case in either situation (DA hits, they miss) is that you win. Have DA make the FT and force the other team to make a miracle shot.

    Comment by jim -

  31. You must make the shot. You have to assume that they will then be forced to take a three to tie the game and if played right, should be a hurried shot. The three is much lower percentage shot, also, doing it with time expiring makes setting your feet more difficult. Avery made the correct call. Hey, Mavs won!

    Comment by brian sherman -

  32. Hi Matt….

    I was trying to make a point about visualization and subconscious programming….Obviously you missed the aim of my comments.

    I have one question for you my friend….Is it “bliss” like they say?

    Jim Parham
    Yuba City, CA

    Comment by StockMaverick -

  33. Stock Maverick,

    NO one cares about your hoop-it-up days. So shut it. Thanks.

    Comment by Matt -

  34. I like AJ’s ‘make the 2nd FT strategy’….

    You have to consider the fact that Darrell Armstrong is an 88% career free throw shooter….Odds indicate that DA will make the second free shot, thereby putting the Mavs up by three. If , by chance, DA misses the second free throw, the intentional miss scenario will play out anyway. Purposely missing the 2nd FT gives the Nuggets a potential opportunity to win the game with a desperation three pointer. Why give your opponent the possibility to win when you have an 88% FT shooter at the line?

    OT: BASKETBALL STRATEGY & STATISTICAL IMPROVEMENT….

    Why not teach and incorporate ‘visualization’ techniques into the Mavs players’ practice regimen?

    As a youngster I participated in “Hoop Shoot” Free Throw Contests sponsored by Elks Lodges. At the age of 12, I advanced through several local and regional contests, going on to win the northern California ‘Free Throw Championship,’ making 23-of-25 attempts. I attribute much of my ‘free throw’ success to the power of mental rehearsal. While it’s true that back then I shot hundreds of free throws every day after school, I believe the mental practice I did each night was equally, if not more important. Each night at bedtime I would lie in bed and visualize myself shooting free throws. In my mind’s eye, I would picture myself standing in a gym at the free throw line and I would try to see as many details as possible….I would see the warm-up suit I’d be wearing for the next contest….I’d see myself bouncing the basketball 3 times….I’d see myself shooting the ball with a soft touch and good arc….then I’d see the ball go in through the rim and I’d hear the swish of the net. I would practice this same mental rehearsal every night as I drifted off to sleep. By doing so, I believe I “programmed” my subconscious mind for “free throw” success….

    Why not have all Mavs players start visualizing their basketball successes….

    Each night, every Mavs player should go through a mental practice. Each individual should take the time to clear their thoughts, then visualize….They should see their shots going in….Visualize themselves playing great defense….See themselves getting the blocks, making the steals, deflecting the opposing team’s passes, etc. Visualize what the box score will look like at the end of the next game….See the opponent’s field goal percentage being below 42%….Visualize the Mavs shooting a high percentage….

    I believe even a player like Shaq could greatly improve his free throw percentage by practicing 15 minutes of mental rehearsal each night. He would gradually re-program his subconscious mind, and begin to override his deep rooted belief that he can’t shoot free throws. It takes a lot of individual dedication and self discipline to make yourself go through mental rehearsal each and every night….But then again, all players should ask themselves how serious they are about improving their game,and how strong their desire to be a champion truly is….

    Jim Parham
    Yuba City, CA

    Comment by StockMaverick -

  35. I don’t know if I’m the only one who noticed this but it looked to me like Avery actually told Darrell to miss the shot and he made it by accident. It was a very flat shot that looked nothing like a normal DA foul shot. Go back and look.

    Comment by Rich Favre -

  36. I would tell him to miss it. Maybe shoot it up high and let it bounce really high off the rim.

    Comment by Benny -

  37. Armstrong is a veteran with a nearly 90 percent free throw percentage. Let him shoot.

    Comment by Steve Hill -

  38. Only when the other team has ZERO timeouts do you intentionally miss. Not when they can move the ball to center court. Come on folks.

    Comment by Matt -

  39. I’ll go ahead and trust decision of the coach that is undefeated at home in regular season play. Not to mention Avery is a very underrated actor, did you see him in Eddie? Reading lines with Whoopi Goldberg made Avery look like Marlon Brando!

    Comment by Bubba from Chicago -

  40. I’ll go ahead and trust decision of the coach that is undefeated at home in regular season play. Not to mention Avery is a very underrated actor, did you see him in Eddie? Reading lines with Whoopi Goldberg made Avery look like Marlon Brando!

    Comment by Bubba from Chicago -

  41. Dear Mark,
    Please purchase the Dodgers. We need you.

    Comment by Alex -

  42. On the inbound pass, why didn’t Darrell throw the ball up high to kill the last second? I just don’t get trying to hold onto the ball for 1 or 2 seconds. Obviously, it gave the other team an opportunity to tie or even win. Doing something weird like a like a lob to nowhere can eat up a couple seconds easily.

    Comment by Todd -

  43. initially i was going to post similar to Daniel, and say miss it hard and send the ball back out past the foul line. but reading the comments makes me think making the shot is the better call, and then go full court man-to-man on the throw in after the time out. just keep it clean and avoid the foul. try to force the throw in to the back court, and let them take a desperation shot.

    Comment by Big Pete -

  44. I think you TRY to make it just to ensure a little more cushion,,, the question that I had was even after that decision.
    Why would the Mavs contest the Nuggets 2 point shot and run the risk of a foul and a make? They were up by 3,,, the 2 pointer doesn’t matter, and their was no way to have any time left with him dribbling the ball to the basket. Great block ,,,but wasn’t it risky?

    Comment by arthur -

  45. I think one point that has been neglected thus far, both in Mr. Cuban’s post and in the subsequent comments, is that in missing the free throw there is the potential that the other team could be fouled on the rebound. Being up by two with a half second left or being up by one and risking a foul leaves little room for decision–make the shot.

    Comment by B. Neal -

  46. Make the shot, bottom line.

    Comment by Bryan Bruce -

  47. I do believe in making that free throw. It is possible to get a basket in less then .4 tenths of a second, as advertised by Derek Fisher against the spurs a couple playoffs back.

    Comment by Gabe -

  48. Rebounds are never guaranteed. I think if all the Mavs are crashing, then an intentional front rim clank is a good option. I see it both ways, and it’s hard to tell a guy to intentionally miss the shot. I coach JH & HS Basketball, so I never know what I will get calling an intentional miss. A hard, low miss would work well. A high, back rim ball would provide too much opportunity for a clean rebound.

    Comment by Daniel -

  49. The rebound would automatically knock .3 (By rule) off the clock, leaving .2 (a tap only situation) By making the shot you leave .5 (a catch & shoot situation) Although you could lose in either situation, a catch & shoot for a three to win, or two to tie, I believe, would be easier than a tap only situation to win. So miss, the freethrow!!!

    Comment by Chris Woods -

  50. I believe a catch after the missed free throw would, by rule, eat up at least .3 of the clock. Then the throw in would require a ‘tap only’ situation, which still could have resulted in a score. (any touch with .3 or less, must be a tap only) I never would have a player miss on purpose, unless that would result in an ‘only possible outcome’ situation.

    Comment by Chris Woods -

  51. On a miss, isn’t 0.3 secs required to come off even with an immediate time-out being called? It seems like that was the rule a few years back. As a college official, this is the standard I would use in this situation.

    Comment by Brett -

  52. Peter, I gotta disagree with you. If you miss, they can hit the deuce to win it. If they’re going to take a shot for the win, make it a lower-percentage one.

    Comment by Gordon -

  53. Make sure your teammates know you gonna miss the shot, so they crash the boards. The problem is, it’s easy for your teammates to get overexcited, and foul, and you don’t want that.

    I think you should put it in, cause in any scenario (excluding a foul), all they can get is OT. If your up by 2, and they get a 3p shot off, they can win the game.

    In a swedish game last week, it was almost the same scenario, but the FT-shooting team were down by 3, with 1 sec left. He missed the last one, and a teammate from outside the 3p arc ran in and put in the rebound, to tie the game. Problem is, he stepped in too early, getting a technical, and the other team got 2 FT, winning the game by four.

    Comment by Henrik -

  54. if 3 or more seconds left I say definately make it. Because then they can probably get a shot for 2 OR 3, this way we get OT if they make a 2.

    With o,5 seconds left I say miss it. THe chance that the first rebound is tipped thereby starting the clock is high. Even if they get a rebound rigth away and call timeout, their only chance is a desperation shot. If they make a Derek Fisher shot they deserve to wint. So miss it is my answer to that problem

    Comment by Peter -

  55. It would be easy to call the miss strategy; however, with that time reamaining regardless of the timeouts, rebounds or made shot factor they are going for the 3.
    many things can happen with .5 on the clock… and seeing the mavs on the short end of the sports center highlights reel is never a good perspective.

    In my opinion. good call.
    I think its a valient move trusting the ability of each player to step it up and ease everyone at the same time.

    Comment by David J. Coomer -

  56. have i been aussuming wrongly that the clock starts once the ball touches the rim?

    Comment by jskuah -

  57. good

    Comment by imdbcn -

  58. You score a touchdown. Plenty of time for the other team to get into good field position and get a field goal. So here’s the question, after you have scored the touchdown, do you kick for 1 point and tie it up, or do you go for 2 and chance that you lose and even if you get the 1 point, the other team might kick the field goal and win anyways.

    Comment by runescape money -

  59. You score a touchdown. Plenty of time for the other team to get into good field position and get a field goal. So here’s the question, after you have scored the touchdown, do you kick for 1 point and tie it up, or do you go for 2 and chance that you lose and even if you get the 1 point, the other team might kick the field goal and win anyways.

    Comment by runescape money -

  60. You have the ball with 4 minutes left. You score a touchdown. Plenty of time for the other team to get into good field position and get a field goal. So here’s the question, after you have scored the touchdown, do you kick for 1 point and tie it up, or do you go for 2 and chance that you lose and even if you get the 1 point, the other team might kick the field goal and win anyways.

    Comment by wow powerleveling -

  61. You have the ball with 4 minutes left. You score a touchdown. Plenty of time for the other team to get into good field position and get a field goal. So here’s the question, after you have scored the touchdown, do you kick for 1 point and tie it up, or do you go for 2 and chance that you lose and even if you get the 1 point, the other team might kick the field goal and win anyways.

    Comment by wow powerleveling -

  62. On a somewhat related strategy issue, UConn likely dimished their odds of winning when, down by 2, they attempted a 2-point shot at the culmination of last Thursday’s Big East tournament game against Syracuase.

    “Behind by 2 at the end of a basketball game and playing a superior team, coaches generally do not attempt a 3-point shot. Yet that shot often offers a better chance of winning than the combined odds of making a 2-pointer at the buzzer, then winning in overtime.” (source: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/30/sports/30risk.html?ex=1374897600&en=7706d24235f0c2d6&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND )

    Comment by John -

  63. It will be great opportunity for me to join the group and share my thoughts with you people out there but I dont know what are the rules and specially the interest area so could you be kind enough to send an e-mail the same for me so as to know about your policy matters? lookin forward for reply……………
    gs_goals2000@yahoo.co.in

    Comment by guruprasad -

  64. M. C. Ray
    P.S. Good work with DeSagana, from a Cavs fan.
    P.P.S. I’d take Terry over Nash any day, as there are two ends to the court

    Comment by down -

  65. Anyone who doesn’t mention the time difference is missing the point. On the miss, a minimum of 0.3 has to come off – by rule. That leaves 0.2 – meaning they can only score on a tip. It’s all but impossible to tip for a three, and incredibly difficult to do it for a two when you’re being defended (ie coming toward the ball in all likelihood).

    Miss the shot. Put two big guys under the net to prevent any kind of lob. Celebrate.

    Comment by Joel Fleming -

  66. How about putting the shoe on the other foot? I have been really curious about this play at the college level. Senerio:

    Mavs down 2, with no timeout remaining.

    Opponents shooting one foul shot with 1 second remaining.

    What should the opponent do? What should Mavs do?

    With no Mavs timeouts remaining, I would say the opponent should miss the shot and time will expire in the while the rebound is being faught over.

    How can the Mavs prevent this from happening? I would suggest the Mavs take a lane violation and step in the foul line prior to the opposition foul shot being taken. Why you ask?

    Well, on the lane violation, if there is a missed foul shot, another fould shot will be awarded. In the event of a made foul shot, no violation will be called.

    I would argue that the Mavs would rather be down 3, with the ball out of bounds. In this event you can throw the ball the length of the court on an inbounds. The clock does not start until the ball is touched. It gives the Mavs a chance.

    If the opponent missed intentially, the Mavs have no timeouts left, and there is no lane violation, the clock will start on the miss and the Mavs would need to get the rebound and hit a full court shot all in less than a second.

    I would much rather have the ball, down three, taking the ball out of bounds!

    Thoughts?

    Comment by Bill Taylor -

  67. Make the free throw. Remember the Knicks game, where they made a three pointer with like .02 on the clock (terrible call and timekeeping). Now that the NBA has ruled that .03 is enough time to catch and shoot, that is the rule not the exception. Take the points to be safe, never leave the game in the hands of the timekeeper or the officials.

    Comment by Mark -

  68. Make the shot, ensure that there is no way that you can be beat, only tied.

    Comment by Danny -

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